I think I posted my first pin cushion on Facebook as a "look at me!". I don't know if the thrill of the experience translated online, sometimes a photo just doesn't show the lead up to an event and the trials and tribulations of threading that damn needle (Julie has hawk eyes and fingers that might slip through a tooth comb) but in the end who cares, I had fun.
I have mentioned to clients often how harsh the colour black can be. It's something that serious spirit workers use in their daily meditations but for the rest of us, it can draw our heightened emotions inward like a black hole. It is wise to have some sort of grounding or be clear in mind when deciding to wear a lot of black. It really can depress you.
The one thing that struck me about Julie when I met her was colour. It can get so dreary here in the Winter and her space invites an eclectic use of colour in her fabrics and even on her person. Creating an environment to heal is part of what I teach and it is almost impossible not to feel uplifted in her surroundings. It's such a joy to be there, her tea tray is becoming a pavlovs dog bell of sorts. It might be the cups she uses or the trigger for some weird unexpected comments unleashing your most sordid tales. It's just that it's so damned relaxed. You can totally be yourself.
I have met the most extraodrinary women through Julie. Wild, gregarious and generous of soul. If you do feel like you need a pick me up or feeling lonely here in the Maine, do check out her classes. I really have never laughed so much in a craft class before.
1. What is your intention for 'Stitched Together' and why did you feel it was necessary to offer in our community?
I’ve been running 'Julie Red Projects' offering sewing classes in Castlemaine for around six years and I’ve observed that often the people who book into my classes (in addition to those just wanting to build on sewing skills) are those who are in some kind of transition, or emerging from some social isolation - whether that be 'new to town' and needing to develop a new social network, or women re-emerging from the fog of new motherhood, or depression, or newly retired and needing to keep busy. The classes I offer are as much about friendship and connection as they are about learning sewing skills. I know that not everyone can afford to pay for classes so I wanted to offer free a session for people to connect in a creative, nurturing space through the act of mending something old or crafting something new. Even though we are proud of our vibrant community here in Castlemaine, there are still still some gaps where people feel isolated and disconnected. This is an informal opportunity for social connection, story sharing, skills sharing and a good cup of tea. I’m teaming up with Bernadette Kalotas (from Heart Studio and ThreadMagnet) for textiles based activities. The short term plan is for monthly ‘Stitched Together’ social craft sessions (on the first Friday of the month) and and some bigger, inclusive crafty events. 'Stitched Together’ is only in its infancy stages, but in the future I'd like to invite some health and wellbeing professionals to offer lifestyle advice, mental health info or link people to other services within the community.
2. What has been your experience of using the act of sewing or crafting in your life to ease personal hardships? Do you believe we can heal by using our hands more in a creative way?
My mantra is ‘craft more, resent less’. I used to say that if I could sew every day then it was a good day. Its my happy place, my meditation (I’m not great at sitting still, but I’ll happily sit and sew for hours). In these busy days its sometimes difficult to give yourself permission to rest and take some time out when you feel obligated to be productive and rush through the day’s to-do list. I find that keeping my hands busy fulfils that obligation and then the magic happens - it draws my focus to the work in hand and calms my monkey mind from distractions. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this state ‘flow’ - a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand, so that nothing else seems to matter. I find that if i don’t put too much pressure on achieving a particular outcome in a set amount of time and instead become engrossed in the process of sewing then it can be a very soothing way to quiet the mind. If I’m outcome focussed AND in a hurry then the opposite happens and there will invariably be some frustrated unpicking involved.
I have a wonderful gang of women who sew together on a Thursday afternoon. They are a little older (and wiser), and I learn a lot from them. They have taught me the joy of slowing down, not putting too many expectations on ‘being as productive as possible’ in the three hour class, but enjoying the company, the laughter, the process of sewing something (and taking your time with it) and a cup of tea.
Then there’s the joy that comes from wearing something that you’ve made yourself. The physical culmination of the whole process of crafting your own outfit, wearing something that you’ve chosen just for you - from the fabric, the colour, the texture, the style, to the buttons. Something that no-one else will have, that you’ve poured time and effort into, sometimes a tear or two, often laughter and a few expletives - it becomes so much more than just a piece of clothing - its an embodied experience that you can wear for years. And then when the compliments arrive on how great you look in it, well there’s nothing quite like it. I just hope the compliment giver is ready for the story that inevitably comes pouring out after “I made it myself”…..
I think sewing is an act of empowerment.
3. You have personally inspired me through your constant reminder to have fun. You're also known for coining the term play-cation and I can't disagree that it's sorely missing in our lives. How do you make time, being a mama, to have fun in your life?
Its always a balancing act! Just when I think I’ve got a good amount of social life going on my boys pipe up to remind me that they’re there and missing me…but as a mama I try to remember that I’ve got to look after myself first, rather than that being the first thing to go...
So I try to schedule it all in. Fun activities while connecting with peeps i love. I go for the act of double happiness: health/wellbeing + fun times/connection. This equation = sanity for me. And it’s still a juggling act to get it right, but at least I have a big picture framework to aim for. And then there's looking for the small moments of joy in between the day to day activities.
As you mentioned, my favourite big thing to do, is to take a play-cation, which is a play on words - ‘placate: to appease or pacify’. It feels like an indulgence as it requires a bit of planning and some acquiescence from family - sometimes it's with them, but usually it's not. It might be a retreat on my own, or for the most amount of fun, its time away with friends and once we’re ‘there’ its unscheduled and spontaneous and indulgent- the goal is: fun. Sometimes a bit of frivolous craft comes along for the ride to keep those hands busy.
4. Do you have your own well being routine? Can you tell us the one thing that's a non-negotiable in your daily care?
Implementing a daily routine that I adhere to has been like trying to catch a rare butterfly… I’d love to say that I have this amazing routine that calms and grounds me and helps me float through the day detached yet present BUT its an elusive goal I’m yet to attain. The single daily practise I do manage is a barefoot walk outside. Sometimes its only as far as the clothes line, other times its a walking meditation.
I try to have some kind well-being activity scheduled into each day.
Mondays and Tuesdays I wear the mama hat and use one day to get away from the house doing something physical in nature (or the complete opposite inside somewhere with technology) and the other day to indulge in domestic bliss, usually baking something without using a recipe but allowing creativity to reign in the kitchen (then I share it with my kindly obliging sewing students on Wednesdays!)
On my ‘work’ days for the rest of the week I include some me time -
- A yoga class with my favourite teacher (and friend) - Patricia Cridge - which comes with a laugh and shared cup of tea at the end.
- A pilates class with a hilarious bunch of women
- A lunch date (or two) with a friend (or two)
- Dancing (and organising) No Lights No Lycra
- Sunday is Family fun day (Though apparently working in the garden/moving bricks for landscaping isn’t fun? I still gotta work on this one)
5. What's the best outfit you saw someone make in one of your classes? You certainly (from experience) attract the most interesting women to your classes.
A bright yellow jumpsuit by Jenny Joy. That woman has sass and pizazz and can rock any outfit. Sew inspiring!
From a lineage which includes a dress-making grandmother, a couturier aunt, an artistic mother. Julie Red learned to sew at the age of ten. If you wanted new clothes at her house, you had to make them yourself!
Julie Red has continued the family tradition. She formalised her passion for textiles by studying Fashion at RMIT Brunswick, and has worked in the industry as a patternmaker and sample machinist for Gorman and teacher at Melbourne’s iconic sewing lounge, Thread Den.
Her background has instilled in her a love for making stuff, and craftily putting things together, especially clothing. There’s nothing more flattering than a complete stranger offering unsolicited compliments on how great you’re looking. Even better if you’re wearing something you’ve stitched, refashioned, or repurposed yourself. With this in mind Julie set out to share her skills and knowledge, encouraging a growing community of people to fall in love with sewing.
The next Stiched Together is Friday 10 March 9.30-11.30am, at Julie Red Projects Studio, at the Old Castlemaine Gaol. See website for more Information on Julie's classes at http://julieredprojects.com/